KOH SAMUI – THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVOURITE THINGS!

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wierdersehen, Adieu! The time has come to say good-bye to our ‘Samui Sojourn’ and so I thought I would leave you with one final blog of all the Best Bits this little island has to offer and the place that we will maybe one day call home…

DO IT…

First of all, try to Learn some Thai words. Even if it’s only Hello and Thank You, it’s always a polite and respectful thing to do and the locals will appreciate it and not think you are just another rude tourist! FYI: learn Hello and Thank You in Burmese as well as many of the waitstaff are from Myanmar.

Get a Beach Massage! Nothing says holiday on a Thai Island like the famous Beach Massage! At every beach you will find at least one Massage Sala and the normal rate is about 300 Baht for oil or traditional Thai. Lie back and be oiled and pummelled by tiny Thai women with hands of steel whilst you listen to the waves, smell the jasmine and feel the sea breeze….. Heaven!

Visit a Waterfall. On Samui there are numerous waterfall spots hidden away on the island and most are a bit of a hike down a mountain but well worth it for their beauty and crystal clear (cold) water! You can have your very own ‘Blue-Lagoon’ moment in a jungle paradise!

Walk Mae Nam Beach. Sounds a bit too physical? Don’t panic, Mae Nam is by far the prettiest beach on Samui due to it being totally lined with palm trees and looks very much like a postcard and has the best water! So why not combine a great leg workout whilst getting a tan and checking out the other resorts! I have actually walked from one end (starting from Black Rose Bar) to the other (which ends at the W Resort) which is just before Bophut. It’s about 60 mins one way if you walk at a good pace ( try to find the hard, sandy bits), but don’t forget you have to turn around and come back again! FYI: Lamai Beach is equally good and the sand is firmer so extra good for fast walking!

Go to a Spa. Always wanted a Gold-Leaf Facial? Here’s your chance! Samui is home to a mega load of Day Spa’s and the best ones by far are in Fisherman’s Village in Bophut. Dark, cool interiors, trickling water features and exotic-looking therapists, makes you feel like you are a V.I.P. for a fraction of the price you would receive at home. Great for a rainy day or just to feel pampered, choose all the treatments that you would normally never afford and go to town! I recommend SAKURA Spa in Bophut and ROYAL Spa in Chewangfor their range of services, prices and professionalism.

Looking for a Secluded Beach? Go to Thongson Bay. Aptly named ‘Secret Beach’ by the locals, it is difficult to find but once you get there it is well worth it! It is next to Melita Resort and has a fab little restaurant and the most photographed coconut palm on the island! It can get quite hot so bring an umbrella or a hat. Beach massages are also available or you can have a walk along the rocks to the little cove next door which is popular for Naturalists. Ooh la la! Small but sweet with soft white sand and clear water, it’s a must on your beach escape list!

Rent a Jet-Ski. I think if you have always wanted to try your hand at riding a Jet-Ski, this is the place! Safe open waters and well maintained vehicles make it comfortable for first timers. No need for a licence, just have your wits about you and have a bash! You don’t have to go too fast, just try it and take the opportunity to see the coast from the ocean. It’s fun and a bit daring and a tick off the old bucket list!

Visit Hin Ta and Hin Yai. The famous Grandfather and GrandmotherRocks (Penis Rock) in Lamai, is a must! The lovely legend behind the natural formations and also the actual rocks themselves are interesting and amusing! The Grandfather rock is actually shaped like a Penis and is the phallic version of Pisa when it comes to taking photos! Whilst you are there, have a look at some of the interesting local shops and make sure you indulge in a coconut ice-cream treat! Afterwards, why not head over to Lamai Beach just around the corner for lunch and a cool dip!

Discover the island by Scooter or Car. Koh Samui is not very large and is easy to drive around! Get a feel of the place by either renting your own scooter or car and check out all the little beaches and areas not easily accessible by taxi. Explore the side roads, find the Elephant Gate near Lipa Noi and the 5 Islands or take the short cut from Mae Nam to Lamai (9.5km inland through coconut palms and grazing buffalos) gorgeous! Makes you feel like a local in no time and discover your own little favourite spots for your next visit!

Visit the Wats and Temples and get Blessed by a Monk. Put down your Mai Tai’s and inject some culture into your stay! Koh Samui has a mixed culture and this is represented in the form of many Chinese and Thai Temples and Sacred Sites. The most famous being Big Buddha Beach, locally known as Wat Phra Yai, the home of the 12 meter seated golden Buddha. It’s one of the main tourist attractions on the island and is also a 2 min drive from Wat Plai Laem, which features the enormous and breathtaking statue of the Goddess Guanyin. Go early in the morning to make an offering and if you are lucky, get blessed by the local Monk. Available for everyone and non discriminatory, the temples and statues are beautiful and the monks peaceful as they go about their day. Show respect for the Buddhist culture and dress appropriately. Women should cover their shoulders.

Go Zip Lining through the Jungle! For those of us who like to add a bit of edginess to their holidays, I recommend Zip Lining through the trees here in Samui! Fly over rivers and waterfalls and feel like a bird for an hour or so and just have fun! It’s not that scary really and is really good too for first timers who want to try something a bit ‘less extreme’ than jumping out of a plane! Skyhawk Adventurein Nathon is new and very professional. Added bonus is that it is right next to a waterfall so you can have a two for one deal!nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

BUY IT…

Chewang Shopping Street is the most popular place for spending some of your Baht in Koh Samui. A very long double sided street full of stores offering everything from fake bags to t-shirts, shoes, novelty gifts, traditional Thai ornaments, coconut lamps, paintings, swimwear, suits… you name it’s there and it’s for sale! Haggle your way to a bargain and buy that item of Gucci or Louis Vuitton that you’ve always dreamed about for a fraction of the price, whilst you save for the real deal! The quality is better in the air-conditoned stores but they don’t discount as much. It’s a long, hot walk but exhausting and worth a visit before you leave. FYI: Stores don’t open before 10am and close at around 10pm so you can go late afternoon when you are ‘beached’ out! There are also some fantastic clothing boutiques there for both men and women that are well worth a look and you can find some really special buys.

Central Festival in Chewang is a new shopping mall which spreads over two levels and has a local department store, Central, which is fabulous! There are also many restaurants and cafes and even a food court. Boots and Watson’s Pharmacies are also there as is a funky hair salon and some posh Day Spa’s (Royal Spaas mentioned above). So whilst you are in the Chewing area, check it out! Also a good idea for a rainy day as it’s undercover and has undercover parking too! Score!

Visit the many Night Markets. In whichever area you may be staying, there is a Night Market just for you! Great for finding all your last minute holiday presents and souvenirs, it’s a one stop shop, fun, bustling and full of life! Grab a 60 Baht cocktail from the many vendors and shop till you drop amongst the hundreds of stalls on offer. Bargains are guaranteed as is a great time people watching and a general fun night out! FYI: Mae Nam Market – Thursday Night. Bophut Market – Friday Night. Lamai – Sunday Night. Chewang – Monday Night(mainly food).

Supermarkets. If you are anything like us, checking out foreign supermarkets is a big one on list when we travel! What better way to find and try new products, see what the locals buy and also just stock up on your own groceries whilst you’re there! Koh Samui has four major Supermarket chains and of course MB and I have visited all of them! Big C (Casino), Tesco LotusMakro (bulk buy and fresh meat/seafood) and the new kid on the block and now a personal favourite,
Tops (Central Festival)! We do most of our personal grocery shopping at Big C as it has many French products (fab for us), but Tops in Central Festival is fantastic for everything from German to Italian goods. Tesco Lotus has mostly English and popular Asian brands. FYI: Alcohol is available to purchase in all these supermarkets but not between 2 -5 pm.

Go Vintage Shopping. I adore vintage shopping and here in Samui you have some funky little places to find a treasure! For both guys and gals who love their jeans, I recommend a visit to the Levi’s Shop in Mae Nam (near the police station). It carries all sizes and styles of vintage Levi’s and retro t-shirts!There is also another Levi’s store on the main ring road near Chewang. For those who are into army stuff, the Army Disposal Store in Nathon (near the Pier), has authentic Army/Marine gear from the States: Backpacks, shirts, trousers, caps, boots,you name it, it’s there! Well worth a poke around when you are down that way!

Boutiques. For that special top or dress that you want to find, head to Fisherman’s Village in Bophut. This walking street has some of the best boutiques on the Island all in one row such as Dalaya Boutique, K & I, Ms Carino, Saona, 69 Slam and Amazonia’s, just to name a few! There are a heap more to investigate and also some of these stores are in Chewang and Lamai shopping streets as well.

Side of the road Bargains! Keep your eyes open when you are driving/riding around Samui as there are many little stores and shops that are worth stopping for and having a look.

I am a huge fan of the ones selling really cheap but quirky clothes and also the classic 20 Baht Bargain Basement ones that sell everything from cooking gear to toothbrushes! MB and I have found some of our most treasured items in these places and you could honestly do an entire home fit-out (budget style) from one shop!

EAT IT…

Best Beach Restaurants for French and Thai cuisine is by far Baobab in Lamai.
Only open during the day from 8-6pm, it offers fantastic food, service and location! Free sunbeds are also available for those who dine there. It is all white with a thatched roof, has a laid-back ‘beachy‘ vibe and is extremely popular with the French folk who live on the island! It is always consistent and a must -do. For the best Papaya Saladand Deep-Fried Whole Snapper, head to Black Pearl in Lamai. Easy to find as it is next door to Baobab (convenient!), they also offer free sunbeds and you can enjoy your lunch overlooking the huge rocks. Excellent service and value for money, this little gem of a restaurant is open both day and night and also offers excellent western-style food.

For an Italian fix, say ciao to DaBardo Pizzeria in Mae Nam. Arguably the most authentic and well-made pizza’s I have eaten since Italy, the crazy chef and kitch surroundings make it a fun and filling night out! For more upmarket Italian fare with a great view, head to Salefino in Bangrak (near Big Buddha). Situated next to the local market, this little resto prides itself on the freshest of seafood. A small blackboard menu and an attentive owner/host makes for a memorable evening.

Cocktails at Sunset. Do you like Piña Colada? Sip one in the swanky bar/restaurant Sunsets by Angelina in Bangrak, whilst watching the sun go down. Right next door to the entrance to Big Buddha, this hip/cool establishment is run and owned by three French youngsters and is trés fantastique! Quick service, funky tunes, great menu, it has it all AND has

the best view of the sunset. It’s also on the flight path as the airport is up the road, so check out the undercarriage of the planes as they fly overhead as they feel like they might land right on the deck!

Visit the Local Markets. Whether you are going to cook up a feast in your own kitchen or just for a look around, the local food markets have everything you need in fresh produce. Meat, poultry and fish is available every day, all day, as is a wide range of fruits, vegetables and ready made curries and stir-fry’s to take away. Well displayed and cheap as chips, wandering the markets really make you feel like one of the gang! Grab some mangoes and fried chicken (think Thai KFC..YUM..) and head to the beach for a picnic! Lamai, Bangrak and Mae Nam markets are the best.

Eat the best Thai Dinner with your feet in the sand at  Krua Bophut in Fisherman’s Village in Bophut. Twinkling lights, palm trees, soft music and lapping waves, this is my favourite spot for a romantic Thai meal. Choose a table on the beach, kick off your shoes and enjoy your Roasted Duck Curry whilst feeling the sand between your toes. The staff are both excellent and attentive and being in traditional dress adds that special touch of elegance.

Try a Beach Buffet. Tired of restaurants for lunch? Here’s a game changer! Chewing,  Lamai and Maenam beaches have local men and women who walk the stretch of sand carrying a portable kitchen on their backs via a long bamboo pole! Perfect ears of Yellow corn,Satay Sticks and Spring Rolls are cooked to perfection right before your eyes! Indulge in some beach prepared Papaya Salad or just grab a Doughnut some Fresh Fruit or a perfectly cut Coconut! These are all available to purchase for your picnic on the beach! It’s tasty, fresh and cheap and also a lovely way to show support for the poor locals who have to trudge up and down the sand in the heat. FYI: Please always Tip…

For a posh Western Meal (or just an excuse to wear your heels)…I highly recommend Barracuda in Fisherman’s Village in Bophut. (I know I recommend this area A LOT, but it seriously does have all the good stuff)! A small, modern restaurant, it has a sleek design and an even sleeker menu. Asian fusion with a twist, but done in style and with generous portions, Barracuda delivers consistently good food and excellent service. The prices are very resonable and the menu changes every few months. I have eaten there three times now over the years and have never found a fault, (which I think is a Big Call)! A great wine list and a choice of inside banquette-style seating or outside dining whilst people watching with a glass of bubbles, adds that touch of class to your time away!FYI: This restaurant has closed for the moment but is re-locating soon…keep a lookout for it when you go! I will update as soon as I know more!

Try the Smoothies. I love a good smoothie as much as the next person and some of THE best ones have been purchased on the side of the road in Koh Samui for as little as 40 Baht! These small stalls are everywhere and offer a range of choices in fruit (mango, banana, dragon fruit, coconut,pineapple etc) and also flavoured syrups if that’s your thing and are delicious! Simply ice, fresh fruit and a little milk and made quickly, these are my “meal on the run” or “after exercise” fast food of choice! Don’t be scared, have a try and you will be hooked! FYI: Banana is
the bomb and all the stalls are extra clean, tidy and well organised! They are also a huge hit with the locals so they must be good!

Eat where the Locals Eat. Side of the road restaurants with plastic tables and chairs and buzzing with action, these roadside diners offer a full Thai menu at dirt cheap prices and some of the tastiest food you will have. Whether on the beachside of the ring road or on the main drag , these little gems get your tastebuds tingling as you sweat through Chilli Pork with Basil Leaves or a simple Pad-Thai. Some sell beer and others just have jugs of fresh water on the tables, but either way you are guaranteed some top- notch- nosh! Siriphoca Restaurant in BangPo (beachside) is a personal favourite, but there are seriously hundreds to choose from in all areas! Save money, eat well and dine budget style.

So there you have it people! My Best of the Best here in Sunny Samui! Have a great time exploring this fabulous little island paradise and discover your own hidden gems! Just DO IT, BUY IT and of course, EAT IT and enjoy the ride!

…”Life is either a daring adventure or nothing”…Helen Keller

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